One of the first cautionary warnings that people new to the magical life seem to stumble upon is the idea that magic shouldn’t be used for personal gain. There doesn’t seem to be any clear-cut precedent for where this mandate came from, and in fact not all magical traditions follow it. To do magic is, after all, to express your own discontent with the universe and the things in it, and to make changes come about to your satisfaction.
Think of it this way. Let’s say you are particularly skilled at building things. Is there some big Rule of Building that says you’re only allowed to construct things for other people, but never for yourself? What if you have a talent for balancing numbers? Does the Accountant’s Rede permit you only to do someone else’s bookkeeping, but not let you balance your own checkbook? Of course not. That would be ridiculous.
If your tradition says, “Don’t do this,” then don’t do it. Otherwise, what’s holding you back? Your personal code of ethics will help you determine whether or not you can perform an action or not.
Magic is a skill set just like any other. You can use it alone, or you can use it in tandem with the mundane. Part of developing magical ability is to make your own life better. If you’re sick, you do a healing working on yourself. If you’re financially strapped, you do a working that brings abundance your way. Just like with any other talent, use the skills you have to benefit yourself. If you’d like to use it to help other people as well, that’s awesome, and something to be proud of.
In the meantime, unless your tradition specifically forbids you from doing magic for personal gain, don’t ever let anyone tell you that your abilities can’t be used for yourself.
For a lot of us, the period of the New Moon – a time in which the moon is dark and cannot be seen – is a fallow phase. It’s when we recuperate and regroup, on a magical and spiritual level.
Getting Yourself Back In Order
Depending on how actively magical a life you lead, you may find yourself needing to take a breather every now and then, a time when you do no workings, and simply get in touch with your spiritual and emotional inner self.
Use the three days that occur before, during and immediately after the new moon as a time when you give your “witchiness” a rest, and instead focus on rejuvenation.
How can you do this? After all, you’re busy, right? You have a job, kids, commitments to keep… but you owe it to yourself to take a break once in a while. It’s not selfish to think of yourself on occasion — in fact, if you DO take the time to focus on you, you’ll be a happier and healthier person. Here are some ways you can get yourself feeling revitalized during the new moon:
Take a cleansing bath. Use herbal sachets, light candles, and scented oils if you like them. Shut off the phone, lock the bathroom door, and enjoy.
Go for a walk in the woods. Humans aren’t the only ones whose bodies move in tune with the moon’s cycles. See if the trees and sky feel different to you during this phase of the moon. Notice changes in energy in the natural world.
Take a catnap. If you’re feeling run-down and beat, nothing beats a quick 30-minute nap. Don’t sleep too long, though, or you’ll just feel off-kilter the rest of the day.
Make the time to get comfortable in your favorite chair or a spot on the floor, and meditate. If you have trouble meditating on your own, get a recorded guided meditation to follow along with.
Do something with your hands. If you’re a crafty type, now is a good time to do work that is physical, rather than mental or spiritual. Build something, paint a picture, chop some wood.
Get together with friends. Often, we forget how important it is to connect to people other than our spouse and kids. Get a group together and go out, even if it’s just for lunch.
Try something new. If you’ve always wanted to take a yoga class, learn Irish step dancing, or try out tuba lessons, now’s a great time. Think of the new moon as a time of rebirth, and a new you will emerge as the moon begins to move into its waxing cycle.
Plant something. Many gardeners swear by moon phase planting — the phase between the new moon and the full moon, when the moon is waxing, is when you should start your seedlings for plants that grow above ground. It’s also a good time to re-pot and trim up any houseplants that may have gotten scraggly.
We’ve all experienced it – especially those of us who work in a creative field like writing, art, music, and so forth. Sometimes, the muse just goes away. Whether it’s writer’s block or whatever, we occasionally feel like we JUST CAN’T EVEN, because we’re not motivated, we question our skills, or we have lost our mojo. This spell is designed to help restore that creative spark and get you back on track.
Keep in mind that this is a spell that’s fairly freeform, and so there’s a lot of wiggle room here. Consider it a basic template, and tweak as needed – I originally wrote it for someone who was a singer, and having issues with finding his voice again after a long period of devastating personal problems. So, it’s written in that context, but you can make adjustments as you need to.
I thought about doing a healing spell to get rid of the cracking, squeaky voice, but it occurred to me that it’s part of the body’s natural process. I didn’t think eliminating it would be beneficial. Then I hit on the idea of hurrying the process along, and encouraging the new, confident voice to come and replace the one that had surfaced as a result of insecurities and low self-esteem.
A general note here about spellwork ~~ I don’t purify my space ritually, I just clean it, because I keep my home designated as sacred space. I don’t cast a circle, but I do lay out my Elemental Stones in my work area, which often times is my kitchen counter. When I am done, I don’t have a formal “I’m All Finished” ritual, I just clean up my stuff. If you want to do any of those things, go for it. This is just the basic spell itself, not the preparation.
First, find small things that represent the quality of the new voice you would like to have. For example, a scrap of paper with lyrics to your favorite song, or something that makes you feel like singing ~~ sand from your favorite beach, a token of someone you love, a rock from your favorite mountaintop, etc. Each piece should represent some aspect of what you see your voice becoming.
When you have them all, bind them together with knots in a cord. You could use dark blue cord to represent changes, or green to symbolize regaining something that was lost, or a combination of the two. Maybe even add light blue, which can be used for healing. I like to use braids when I’m doing cord magick, because honestly, they look cool.
While you are tying the knots into the cord with your items, visualize your old unpleasant voice leaving your body, and the new, strong one, developing and taking over once more. You could even say a few words, over and over again, as you are knotting, such as: “Awkward voice, harsh to hear, be gone within the season near. New voice stable, of one full grown, bloom within me as magic is sown.” Obviously, you don’t have to use these words, but maybe something along those lines. It doesn’t even have to rhyme, but I like words that do.
Since this is a constructive spell, I would do it under a waxing moon rather than a waning moon (I find that I like to do destructive stuff under a waning moon, seems to work better). You don’t have to wait until midnight, but I’d recommend going out when the moon is at its highest, or at least centermost, point in the sky. Light a dark blue candle, again, this symbolizes change. Drip a glob of wax on each knotted item in your cord, again repeating the words you used while knotting.
When you are finished, take the whole thing and hang it in a place personal to you ~~ your room, your locker, etc. Make sure that whenever you see it, you acknowledge its presence.
At some point in your spiritual journey, you may feel that you’ve learned enough to share your knowledge with others. Perhaps other people have approached you and asked you to teach a class or lead a group. It’s indeed possible that your life experience and studying has put you in a position where you can take on this responsibility. Perhaps you’re even thinking about forming your own coven. However, before you commit to such a big undertaking, you may need to take a few things into consideration.
First, think about whether the knowledge you have is enough to teach a class or lead a group. Do you understand basic ritual format and spell construction? More importantly, are you capable of teaching this information to others in a way that is understandable, without dumbing it down? Can you demonstrate the things you teach, or do you have to rely on just reading from a book?
Next, think about whether or not you’re someone people will respect as a teacher. Are you living a magical life each day? Are you just talking the talk, or are you walking the walk? Often, in the Pagan community, we see people who claim to have vast acres of esoteric knowledge, and yet they’re unhappy, living in squalor, and unable to cast their way out of a paper sack — would you take lessons from someone like this?
What can you possibly learn from someone who can’t get their own act together? Make sure that you are able to be someone students look up to.
Do you have enough patience to teach? For some people, teaching may mean having to explain the same concept seven different ways to the same person. Can you do this, without screaming, “You’re an idiot!” at someone who asks a question over and over again? Are you capable of being selective in taking on students, or will you teach anyone who asks you to do so?
One of the most important things to keep in mind is the question of why you want to teach. Really, what will you get out of it? Are you interested in teaching because you’d like to have people following you around and hanging on your every word? Do you want to lead classes because you have a need for validation and back-patting from others? Or is it simply the case that there is a need in your community, and you feel called to get involved? Do you believe that you can do some good by helping others on their spiritual journey?
Finally, remember that there is an investment of your time and energy in teaching and leading.
Selene K., a Wiccan High Priestess from Maine says, “For each hour-long ritual I lead, I spend about five hours in preparation. If I’m teaching a class, I might put in anywhere from ten to fifteen hours of prep time — and that’s for a two-hour lesson!”
Ultimately, not everyone is capable of teaching — and that’s okay. The important thing to remember is that just because you’ve begun teaching doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning. Share what you know, help others on their path, and most importantly, never stop growing yourself. It’s this last bit that will help you become a teacher truly worthy of the name.
I am humbled and awed by the outpouring of kind words from y’all. Reviews are starting to come in for Wicca Practical Magic, and people have had such nice things to say!
Remember, the digital version is available now, and you can pre-order the print edition, which will be released on June 6, now through Amazon!
Here’s what Angie Kunschmann had to say:
I have often been accused of being a bit harsh about the saturation of 101 style books in the past. It’s true, I wish more books were published that go deeper into spiritual practices, rather than focusing on the beginning of a path. However. Patti has been writing informational articles about the practice for years on About.com and she brings this book to life with accurate history and exceptional information. This is not just another 101 book that is recycling information someone has read on a blog or another book. This is a clear cut reference book that can be used for ages.
Also, check out some of the awesome reviews over on Amazon!
Don’t forget, you still have time to pre-order your copy – and if you do, I’ll send you some cool bonus material! Just follow the instructions here to score some free loot! Wicca Practical Magic Pre-Order Swag
In the 1950s, when Gerald Gardner was writing what eventually become the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, one of the items he included was a list of guidelines called the Ardanes. The word “ardane” is a variant on “ordain,” or law. Gardner claimed that the Ardanes were ancient knowledge that had been passed down to him by way of the New Forest coven of witches. However, it’s entirely possible that Gardner wrote them himself; there was some disagreement in scholarly circles about the language contained within the Ardanes, in that some of the phrasing was archaic while some was more modern.
Valiente had suggested a set of rules for the coven, which included restrictions on public interviews and speaking with the press. Gardner introduced these Ardanes – or Old Laws – to his coven, in response to the complaints by Valiente.
One of the largest problems with the Ardanes is that there is no concrete evidence of their existence prior to Gardner’s revealing them in 1957. Valiente, and several other coven members, questioned whether or not he had written them himself – after all, much of what is included in the Ardanes appears in Gardner’s book, Witchcraft Today, as well as some of his other writings.
One of Valiente’s strongest arguments against the Ardanes – in addition to the fairly sexist language and misogyny – was that these writings never appeared in any previous coven documents. In other words, they appeared when Gardner needed them most, and not before.
The dispute over the origins of the Ardanes eventually led Valiente and several other members of the group to part ways with Gardner. The Ardanes remain a part of the standard Gardnerian Book of Shadows.
However, they are not followed by every Wiccan group, and are rarely used by non-Wiccan Pagan traditions.
At Litha, or Midsummer, the sun is entering the astrological house of Cancer, which is a water sign. In many traditions, this time of year is associated not just with fire, but with water as well — rivers, streams, springs, and so on.
In the British Isles, sacred springs and holy wells were considered more potent than usual at the summer solstice. In Bairnwell, Cambridge, a Midsummer festival has been held next to a sacred spring each year since at least the early thirteenth century.
In many rural areas, local gods were often honored at holy wells and streams. Historians say it became a popular custom to toss a bit of silver — coins, pins, etc — into a sacred body of water as an offering to the god or goddess of that area. Near Pickering, Yorkshire, residents performed sacred ceremonies at a local well to ensure fertility of both the people and the harvest for the coming season.
Holy wells also appear prominently in Welsh and Irish legend. The healing powers of water are common in Irish myth, and in many cases the wells are sources not only of healing but also of wisdom and fortunes granted.
Pagan religions do not have a monopoly on sacred streams and wells. In Christian legends, many or Ireland and Britain’s holy springs are the domain of a particular saint associated with the area. It is believed that it is the power of the saint that makes the water flow, and thus the water is imbued with magical properties. Many of these sites became the destination of Christian pilgrims, seeking the healing powers of the water.
As Christianity spread throughout Europe, many of these sacred springs and wells were boarded up or covered, as their presence was a constant reminder to the church of Pagan history. By the time of the Reformation, most of the sites had been forgotten. Around the late seventeenth century, however, it became stylish to visit springs and wells for therapeutic purposes, and a brand new industry cropped up around wells, springs, and streams. By the time of the Regency period, spas like the ones at Bath were a popular destination for members of the gentry, and springs and wells which had been lost to disuse were opened up again and presented for their healing value.
Many holy wells and sacred springs exist today on private properties throughout the British Isles and parts of the European mainland. Because of the relative obscurity of most wells and springs today, it is hard to tell how many are still in existence.
One of the things I always try to stress to people when they’re working magic is that words matter – and by this, I mean you’ve got to be REALLY specific. As an illustration, let me share with you a story from my own checkered magical history.
Way back when, in the days when I was too young to know any better, I decided that a recent speeding ticket would be the target of my witchy wisdom. I had gotten the ticket quite justifiably, because I was flying down the highway well over the legal limit when I got popped. I’d been traveling from Ohio to South Carolina, and there’s a stretch of I-77 in West Virginia that is just beautiful. It was a bright sunny morning in the mountains, I had the windows down, Guns ‘N Roses cranked in the cassette player, and was paying absolutely no attention at all to my speed, when I heard the bloopBLOOOOP of a siren… and sure enough, right behind me was one of West Virginia’s finest.
So, yeah, the speeding ticket was justified, I totally own it. Unfortunately, I was also flat broke, so when time came to pay it a few weeks later, I was all HELL NAW and decided I just wasn’t going to. I was 19, cocky, and dumb, so I decided that in order to make this $164 problem go away, I would turn to the recently discovered world of magic.
In all of my 19-year-old wild and crazy heavy-metal-punk genius, I cast a perfectly magnificent spell….
asking for “truth and justice to prevail.”
Boy, did it EVER. In addition to the original $164 fine, I also got a letter telling me I had to pay to get my license reinstated, because the state of Ohio suspended it when I failed to pay my speeding ticket. I also got slapped with two bills I had defaulted on in another state, because somehow the collection agencies had found me.
Yep, truth and justice sure as hell did prevail.
Speeding ticket: $164
Past due phone bill: $91
Fines from some other crap I forgot to pay: $389
Learning the value of wording your spell properly: Priceless.
Words matter. THINK about what your intention is. Remember the old adage about being careful what you wish for, because you just might get it? Intent and purpose are everything, so be deliberate, be focused, be specific… and be careful!
I periodically open my mailbox and find copies of nifty stuff from publishers asking me to review new and upcoming titles. A lot of times I don’t get a chance to do it, because I’m writing my own stuff, and I have a personal policy of never reviewing someone else’s material when I’m working my own. However, right now I’m in the middle of a very brief lull, and so I thought I’d share a few reviews with you over the next couple of weeks. I’m going to begin with Wicca, Plain and Simple by Leanna Greenaway, because I really like it.
Wicca, Plain and Simple, from Red Wheel/Weiser, is just what the title implies: it’s a bare-bones primer on the basics of modern Wicca, with very little fluff and no bullshit. It’s a good starting point for any beginner who’s interested in magical practice.
Like many of us in the Pagan community, Greenaway associates the word Wicca with the evolving, fluid version of Wiccan spirituality today, rather than the specific, orthopraxic original meaning as founded by Gerald Gardner – and although this is a small distinction, it’s one that’s important to keep in mind as you’re reading Wicca, Plain and Simple.
Greenaway starts off with a brief overview of witches and magic – who are witches, what do they do, etc., and then launches into some of the core concepts of Wiccan belief and practice. She doesn’t waste time arguing about terminology, but gets straight to the meat of things.
After a brief summary of magical tools – many of which will seem familiar if you’ve read any other books on Wicca or Paganism – there are sections on the magic of the moon, the garden, animals, and the Tarot. Honestly, I wish these chapters had been longer and more detailed, because this is where Greenaway really shines.
A few tidbits:
Page 30, Lunar Magic: "There are many theories about the Moon and how it affects us. One theory posits that the Moon and its phases influence our internal chemistry, pulling on the gravitational forces of our physical bodies. Another concept states the gravitational field of a full Moon changes energy particles that reach the Earth, influencing the way we think and feel by changing the functions of our brain."
Page 16, Wicca and Positive Thought: "Always make sure you are in the right frame of mind before you begin spell casting. If you are feeling ill, angry, or emotional in any way, your spell may be thwarted, so you should wait until you have settled down."
Page 106, Spells for Health, Wealth, and Prosperity: "The basic life issues we all confront relate to our security and well-being, and when life issues are compromised, we are stressed - we need to learn to find resolution and peace through these hardships so we can move on in our spiritual development."
She knows her stuff, and communicates it in a way that makes sense for beginners without dumbing it down for veteran practitioners. Finally, she wraps the whole thing up with spellwork, for love, money, and happy families.
While you definitely won’t need to learn everything you need to know from just this one book – or any one book, really – it’s a good primer on the basics, with solid information provided in an easy-to-use format. Greenaway did a great job, and my only complaint really is that, as I mentioned above, I’d have loved for some of the sections to be expanded upon.
Overall, I give it four broomsticks out of five!
Wicca, Plain and Simple on Amazon:
Disclaimer: A review copy of this title was provided by the publisher.